Saturday, March 24, 2012

desks on the hoof

We may as well have a spotted owl or a whooping crane living in town.

Except, this rare bird stays rooted.  Because it is a tree.

I have walked by it -- who knows how many times?  It grows next to the bus station and across the street from the bank.

We do not often notice what we see every day until something changes.  In this case. the tree started producing seed pods.  And I had seen those seed pods before.  On a table in my living room -- as part of an artificial flower arrangement.

But I had no idea what type of tree it was.  Nor did any of the people who ran businesses within its shade.  They could only tell me that it was a "medicine tree" (apparently, an early remedy for what Viagra now treats) or a "cedar." 

I doubted the latter claim.  The tree was deciduous.  Not a conifer.  As for the first claim, I still have no idea. 

A little bit of research (with the help of my land lady, Christine) gave me a rather quick answer.  It is a mahogany -- and, to my surprise, once classified as a cedar due to its seed cones.  And, up until the 1950s, a prime lumber tree of the Americas.
Prime, that is, until it was nearly wiped out.  Starting in the 1790s in Jamaica.  The tree once grew from southern Florida to Bolivia. 

But, because it is slow-growing, and the demand for its wood was so high, it nearly joined the dodo and passenger pigeon as once-thriving, now-extinct living things.

In theory, they are a protected species in the wild.  How the tree in San Patricio happened to be there, no one can tell.  After all, no one can even tell me how the village got its name.  Is it a specimen tree or a hardy native?

It doesn't matter.  It is simply a good symbol of how resilient nature can be.

Plus it gave me an opportunity to learn a few new things about a tree that is a bit more than my grandmother's dining table or my friend's sail boat.


Kim G said...

Maybe you should harvest some of those seed pods and try to cultivate a few more. Meanwhile, keep the identity of said tree a secret, it its days too may be numbered.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Which was once nearly completely deforested, but now quite green again.

tancho said...

Yep, I can see it now. Steve's medicinal herb and seed shop......

Steve Cotton said...

 Well, I learned my Chinese medicine lessons well.

Steve Cotton said...

 I suspect my relatives were part of the deforestation crew.  Maybe  your proposed Stevie Mahogany Seed would be a make up call.

Francisco said...

It is also a prized wood for guitars, both acoustic and electric.

Felipe Zapata said...

Interesting. That's a whale of a seed pod.

Steve Cotton said...

A great example.  It is also used in some high-quality speakers.

Steve Cotton said...

 As big as a Ponderosa pine cone.  I am certain there is a Hoss joke in there somewhere, but it eludes me right now.

Elke L Gazvoda said...

thanks for de-mystifying that tree, Steve. We've been wondering about what type of tree that is for years....

Steve Cotton said...

 Just another part of my neighborly service.  I wonder how difficult it would be to grow one?